Suitable Cartridge upgrade for Pro-ject Debut pro

Kapkirk

Active Member
Really not happy with the sound I'm getting at mo, turntable is fitted with a Pick-it Pro cartridge which I believe is based on the Ortofon 2M series.
On listening to my albums the sound is very thin and sibilant, not getting any of the warmth a TT is supposed to give. I'd describe the sound as mostly distorted, thin bright and pretty crap tbo.
Listening to my Node 3 with lossless streams or my CD player completely wipes the floor with the Turntable so much so I stopped using it after only 3 or 4 days, (purchased it 2 weeks ago) it's now just sitting on the rack gathering dust, all the reviews of this turntable/cartridge say it's a belter and the sound is robust and very dynamic with solid bass. The only thing I've done o far is put a rubber/cork mat on it which has helped a little but not significantly.

I was thinking maybe the cartridge is the issue or my phono stage in the amp but not sure what to do first.
The Nagaoka mp110 is unavailable at the moment so was thinking instead of the Grado Green or Audio Technica AT540ml but that's another £220 and I don't know if it will work properly in the low mass Pro-Ject arm, I've read that the cheaper AT95e ml will not be suitable due to low compliance. I want a cartridge or phono pre amp with bass I can actually hear with a smooth treble.
Any suggestions will be very helpful.
 

Ugg10

Distinguished Member
The cartridge will probably need 20-30hrs to bed in and you are likely to get sound improvements in that time, if needed ypu can play it quiet
y or with the amp turned off or on another source for a while and see if the sound improves. The 2m, especially the Red and Blue are dry sounding carts and often described as CD like.

Also have you checked the weight, alignment and anti-skate to make sure it has been set up correctly?
 

Lotusj oey

Active Member
I haven't heard the pick it pro but in the past I have had red, blue and currently running Bronze. I suspect based on the stylus shape being elliptical that the pickit pro sits somewhere between the red and blue. The blue starts off sounding pretty CD like as Ugg10 mentions but I actually found it warmed up after 20 or so hours of run in.

Compared to other brands it is still a pretty analytical (for want of a better word) cartridge. So if the pick it pro sounds anything like the blue I would expect it to behave similarly. One thing I didn't experience with any of these carts however is a thin sound or distortion (although there are reports of distortion with the red). For that reason I think it does sound like a setup issue more than anything else. Before trying to run it in as Ugg suggests I would deffo ensure the alignment is correct. You can pick up this protractor to check the alignment


It is simple to check but there are loads of good setup videos on YouTube which will show you how to use it. The main thing is to ensure the cantilever is straight with the protractor lines at both points.

Once you have checked alignment, ensure the weight is correct. You can get a digital scale for less than a tenner from amazon which I would recommend. Doing it by eye as suggested in the Pro-ject instructions is rarely going to get you to the correct tracking weight. Even a small turn of the balance weight makes a big difference.

Once you have done these adjustments, ensure the antiskate is on and then see if you are still getting any distortion.
 

lee711

Standard Member
The 1st thing I would do is check all the setup parameters. Start with correct tone arm balance, then add tracking weight ( range for that cart is 1.8 - 2.2g with recommended 2.0g, if possible use a digital scale as opposed to the less accurate seesaw you get with the TT ). Next set the anti skate, notch 3. Lastly check the VTA, a little more complicated to adjust but you cannot always rely on a correct setting from the factory, a simple cheap VTA scale will confirm. If after all these checks you are still not satisfied, then a change of cart maybe in order, there's a mine of info out there on this subject for you to read up on. On a side note I have a Project X1 and hated the 2m silver pick-it that it came with and upgraded to a Goldring 1042, the sound this cart produces exceeds my expectations.
 

ricof90

Active Member
I have a similar TT and I upgraded to a AT VM95EN and it made a significant difference. I'm not gonna use a whole load of psuedo audiophile jargon but it just sounds better. Of course having the arm and cart set up correctly is paramount.
 

musicphil

Active Member
If the turntable arm and cartridge are correctly set up, and assuming your stylus is not damaged. I also suspect your cartridge is really an ortofon red spec supplied to Project and this could be your issue.
Certainly the red is a brighter sounding cartridge and this could well be your problem.
Can you get to a dealer to listen to alternative cartridges in your deck?

What phono amp are you using?

Grado black, Nagoaka mp150, Goldring 220 or even Ortofon OM cartridges these are much more smoother in the sound than what you currently have - especially the Nagoaka and the Goldring.
 
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Kapkirk

Active Member
I haven't heard the pick it pro but in the past I have had red, blue and currently running Bronze. I suspect based on the stylus shape being elliptical that the pickit pro sits somewhere between the red and blue. The blue starts off sounding pretty CD like as Ugg10 mentions but I actually found it warmed up after 20 or so hours of run in.

Compared to other brands it is still a pretty analytical (for want of a better word) cartridge. So if the pick it pro sounds anything like the blue I would expect it to behave similarly. One thing I didn't experience with any of these carts however is a thin sound or distortion (although there are reports of distortion with the red). For that reason I think it does sound like a setup issue more than anything else. Before trying to run it in as Ugg suggests I would deffo ensure the alignment is correct. You can pick up this protractor to check the alignment


It is simple to check but there are loads of good setup videos on YouTube which will show you how to use it. The main thing is to ensure the cantilever is straight with the protractor lines at both points.

Once you have checked alignment, ensure the weight is correct. You can get a digital scale for less than a tenner from amazon which I would recommend. Doing it by eye as suggested in the Pro-ject instructions is rarely going to get you to the correct tracking weight. Even a small turn of the balance weight makes a big difference.

Once you have done these adjustments, ensure the antiskate is on and then see if you are still getting any distortion.
There was an alignment tool in the box with the turntable but trying to line the OM body up straight seems an impossible task due to the shape of the cartridge. I have checked the weight on the stylus multiple times with the supplied weight scales gauge and tried a little more weight and a little less with no difference in sound. I am ordering a digital gauge tomorrow.
I have already adjusted the VTA as I purchased a new platter mat, I had to increase it a little as the new mat was a little thicker but have since readjusted it again in case it wasn't dead on as the sound was so bad. I have measured it multiple times (from the headshell end to the back) with different methods and it appears to be spot on.
I suppose the next thing to do as you and others have suggested is the run the tip in a little more to see if the sound improves.
If no improvement after that it looks like I will need to call the retailer who sold me the deck and see if I can take it to them to be checked out. I've had other turntables before this on and played the same records on and from memory I don't remember them sounding this bad.

Also how the hell does one align the OM cartridge properly?
 
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Kapkirk

Active Member
It's funny isn't it, after writing my above help post I was thinking of all the turntables I owned over the years so I made a list of all the ones I can remember. Anyone remember these?
List might not be in date order.

Garrard Sp25 mk3 Goldring cart. (My first hifi turntable when I was about 12 YO)
Pioneer 12D shure M75ed cart (good sounding deck but always had problems with speed control)
Dual 505 Nagaoka MP11 cart.
Technics SL220B Audio Technica cart (still have in the loft somewhere)
Pioneer PL 112D Sure cart.
Garrard GT35P.
Acoustic Research The AR turntable (repair project never finished)
Sansui 222mkII Grado Black (I loved the sound of this thing)
Rega Planar 3 mk1 Ortofon vms30e (sweet analog sound)
Linn LP 12 Valhalla + Ittok K9 (Sold 1993)
Pro-Ject Debut Pro Pick IT Pro. Dec 2021
 

musicphil

Active Member
On listening to my albums the sound is very thin and sibilant, not getting any of the warmth a TT is supposed to give. I'd describe the sound as mostly distorted, thin bright and pretty crap tbo.
I have never heard a cartridge even my MC's that make that much of a dramatic sound change during the break in period. The sound will change, but it will be a subtle change.
Those observations you describe above are the Ortofon red cartridge that's where your problem could well be. As I think your Project cartridge is based upon it.
 
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Lotusj oey

Active Member
There was an alignment tool in the box with the turntable but trying to line the OM body up straight seems an impossible task due to the shape of the cartridge. I have checked the weight on the stylus multiple times with the supplied weight scales gauge and tried a little more weight and a little less with no difference in sound. I am ordering a digital gauge tomorrow.
I have already adjusted the VTA as I purchased a new platter mat, I had to increase it a little as the new mat was a little thicker but have since readjusted it again in case it wasn't dead on as the sound was so bad. I have measured it multiple times (from the headshell end to the back) with different methods and it appears to be spot on.
I suppose the next thing to do as you and others have suggested is the run the tip in a little more to see if the sound improves.
If no improvement after that it looks like I will need to call the retailer who sold me the deck and see if I can take it to them to be checked out. I've had other turntables before this on and played the same records on and from memory I don't remember them sounding this bad.

Also how the hell does one align the OM cartridge properly?
Yeah it is a bit of an awkward shaped body but tbh I always try and ignore the body when I'm aligning anyway because it isn't always flush with the cantilever. I tend to put the TT on my dining room table and look directly down the alignment tool to make sure the cantilever sits flush with the line.

Daft question but just thinking out loud, are all four of the wires completely secure to the cartridge? If you remove the stylus from the cartridge and look at it in natural light does the tip look straight?

Is worth waiting for the digital scale but by the sounds of what you have already tested it probably isn't the tracking force. Deffo worth having for future setups though.

As musicphil has mentioned above it may well be that it is based on the OM red. I didn't experience distortion issues with the red and I gave it to a friend who has it on their TT now with no distortion issues but there are plenty who have experienced this.

I think the best bet after you have tested with the digital scale is as you say, to contact the dealer.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Yeah it is a bit of an awkward shaped body but tbh I always try and ignore the body when I'm aligning anyway because it isn't always flush with the cantilever. I tend to put the TT on my dining room table and look directly down the alignment tool to make sure the cantilever sits flush with the line.

Daft question but just thinking out loud, are all four of the wires completely secure to the cartridge? If you remove the stylus from the cartridge and look at it in natural light does the tip look straight?

Is worth waiting for the digital scale but by the sounds of what you have already tested it probably isn't the tracking force. Deffo worth having for future setups though.

As musicphil has mentioned above it may well be that it is based on the OM red. I didn't experience distortion issues with the red and I gave it to a friend who has it on their TT now with no distortion issues but there are plenty who have experienced this.

I think the best bet after you have tested with the digital scale is as you say, to contact the dealer.

It is a strange shape cartridge for sure, all my previous carts have had dead straight sides so pretty easy to align well. Today in good light I put big magnifying glass in front of it with the alignment gauge underneath and from what I can see the cantilever looks dead straight at both the inner and outer points so I don't think alignment is the issue. I cannot believe a cartridge can sound this bad from the factory, I mean they just wouldn't fit it if it was that bad because it sure wouldn't do Pro-Ject's reputation any good would it?

So later this evening I got so desperate and dragged my old technics SL220 out of the loft and plugged it in to my Denon amp (A task I really wasn't looking forward to, and a real pain in the A$$) this is a 1970's deck with a knackered drive belt and well worn AT95E stylus ..and kaboom, the sound was great with stacks of bass power, and even with a worn tip it sounded better than the pro-ject as it is now. I can only assume there must be a fault either with the Pick-It Pro cartridge or the wiring in the arm etc. I will be contacting the dealer tomorrow as there is no way it is supposed to sound that bad.
 

Lotusj oey

Active Member
Yeah I agree, it sounds like some sort of manufacturing fault. Let us know how you get on with the dealer.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Scrap that. Just read on your other post 👍

PROBLEMS ALL SOLVED NOW, BASS POWER, SIBILANCE, POOR TRACKING AND GROOVE DISTORTION

Yes Lotusj and to ALL, I eventually bought & fitted a different AT540ML cartridge myself, now problem solved.
This thread is kind of joined with the other problem I had (why no bass on new Turntable thread) I will leave some links to a test I did between the old Pick-it Pro cartridge and the new AT 540ml then a clip of it all setup properly and dialled in with some SADE so others considering this TT and cartridge can now get an idea of what to expect if they go ahead and purchase one.

(Please use headphones or speakers if poss) (sorry for poor quality phone recording)

1. demonstration of Pick-it Pro against the AT540ml on a poor recording Pick-it-pro vs AT540ML Sibilance test.mp4

2. A demo of the new at540ml dialled in properly and playing some SADE.

3. And AT540ml playing Some Christopher cross
 

andrew7

Novice Member
Hi I have the same TT interesting. Were there any MC cartridges you considered? I have a good phono MC pre-amp in a mcintosh curious if it'd be worth getting an MC cartridge for this table.
 

Yorkshire AV

Active Member
AVForums Sponsor
Be mindful Andrew, the steel platter won't do you any favours with an MC cartridge.
You would need the Acryl-IT upgrade for the Debut Carbon Evo / Debut Pro if you go down this route.

The PickIT Pro is effectively a 2M Red but with a slightly different cantilever. The 2M Red can be thin sounding - Ortofon appear to go for bright = detail on their lower end cartridges.

The 2M Bronze would have been my recommendation - a fabulous cartridge that brings life to music!
If going down the MC route - try the Quintet Blue or the Quintet Bronze with this table :)


 

andrew7

Novice Member
Be mindful Andrew, the steel platter won't do you any favours with an MC cartridge.
You would need the Acryl-IT upgrade for the Debut Carbon Evo / Debut Pro if you go down this route.

The PickIT Pro is effectively a 2M Red but with a slightly different cantilever. The 2M Red can be thin sounding - Ortofon appear to go for bright = detail on their lower end cartridges.

The 2M Bronze would have been my recommendation - a fabulous cartridge that brings life to music!
If going down the MC route - try the Quintet Blue or the Quintet Bronze with this table :)


excellent info thank you very much. I did not know much about MM/MC when I got this Debut Pro, it does sound good with my MA8900 amp. Also, I didnt know about the platter upgrade. I wonder if I should sell this TT while in mint condition and look at something higher end with an MC cartridge given my good MC phono stage or try the 2M Bronze or Quintet Blue with Acryl-IT Upgrade?

Thanks again extremely helpful.
 

Kapkirk

Active Member
Be mindful Andrew, the steel platter won't do you any favours with an MC cartridge.
You would need the Acryl-IT upgrade for the Debut Carbon Evo / Debut Pro if you go down this route.

The PickIT Pro is effectively a 2M Red but with a slightly different cantilever. The 2M Red can be thin sounding - Ortofon appear to go for bright = detail on their lower end cartridges.

The 2M Bronze would have been my recommendation - a fabulous cartridge that brings life to music!
If going down the MC route - try the Quintet Blue or the Quintet Bronze with this table :)



Please note: The platter on the Debut PRO (as stated by Pro-Ject CEO Heinz Lichtenegger) "The aluminium platter is more heavily damped, and anti-magnetic, which he says is a boon for upgrades to MC cartridges".
So this turntable was designed to be used with Both MM and MC cartridges.
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
excellent info thank you very much. I did not know much about MM/MC when I got this Debut Pro, it does sound good with my MA8900 amp. Also, I didnt know about the platter upgrade. I wonder if I should sell this TT while in mint condition and look at something higher end with an MC cartridge given my good MC phono stage or try the 2M Bronze or Quintet Blue with Acryl-IT Upgrade?

Thanks again extremely helpful.
There are a load of great MM carts that will give a significant upgrade over the one that comes with the Debut Pro, without changing anything else. Nagoaka, Goldring and AT all do carts, under £400, that would suit your TT and sound lovely.
Although, to be fair, your amp does seem to be from a different pricing planet to your TT.
 

andrew7

Novice Member
There are a load of great MM carts that will give a significant upgrade over the one that comes with the Debut Pro, without changing anything else. Nagoaka, Goldring and AT all do carts, under £400, that would suit your TT and sound lovely.
Although, to be fair, your amp does seem to be from a different pricing planet to your TT.
Thank you for the info, which of these brands do you recommend? The TT does sound good to me can only imagine what some of the other tables sound like I will listen to a few. This was just to dip a toe into Vinyl with my families collection relative to amp which is made to work with high end TTs for sure, was told it has a great MC phono stage.

Like anything in this hobby you get the itch to upgrade, I had no idea really of MM/MC and the different options until I did some more research later. Starting off slowly you get to really appreciate the upgrades. Appreciate your help!
 

acgingersnaps

Well-known Member
Thank you for the info, which of these brands do you recommend? The TT does sound good to me can only imagine what some of the other tables sound like I will listen to a few. This was just to dip a toe into Vinyl with my families collection relative to amp which is made to work with high end TTs for sure, was told it has a great MC phono stage.

Like anything in this hobby you get the itch to upgrade, I had no idea really of MM/MC and the different options until I did some more research later. Starting off slowly you get to really appreciate the upgrades. Appreciate your help!
Carts make a big difference. It sounds like you have the budget to experiment and so the obvious choices from those three would be the Goldring 1042 or the Nagoaka MP200. Both would be appropriate for your deck and are incredibly well regarded. I think you'd be very pleasantly surprised at the sound compared to your deck's stock cart.
I'm on a Goldring 2200 at the mo. Next will be the 1042.
 

Khankat

Well-known Member
The Goldring 1042 is superb. I run it and an Audionote UK IQ3, which is based on the 1042. A lot of the time, I run the 1042 stylus in the IQ3 body. This combination is almost as good as the IQ3.
 

lee711

Standard Member
Another vote here also for the 1042, I have it mounted to my X1 and taking time to set this cart up right pays dividends, fantastic sound.
 

theo cupier

Active Member
Another vote here also for the 1042, I have it mounted to my X1 and taking time to set this cart up right pays dividends, fantastic sound.
I have the X1 still on the Pick-it stylus and looking to upgrade.

I'm considering either the Goldring 1042 or the Ortofon 2M bronze.

Glad to know the 1042 works well with the X1. What made you choose it? Did you consider any alternatives?

I am casually wondering where diminishing returns comes in. Is a £900 turntable going to get the most out of a £350 stylus?
 

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